Author Archives: Clare Creighton

Career in the Classroom: Lessons Learned from Teaching ALS 114

by Brenna Gomez, Director of Career Integration, Career Development Center

Part of my role as the Director of Career Integration in the Career Development Center is to collaborate with my colleagues in the University Exploratory Studies Program (UESP) and teach ALS 114: Career Decision-Making once a year. Each time I teach the course, I make updates reflecting student need, the evolving role of AI, and more.

If you’re not familiar with Career Decision-Making, it’s a course largely for UESP students to explore majors and career paths that make the most sense for their individual goals. Students engage in lots of personal reflection about their strengths, values, and interests, while participating in career activities.

With Core Education right around the corner, many instructors and faculty are working to integrate career into existing courses or create new career courses. In this article, you’ll find some tips and tricks for thinking about career in the classroom based on my experience with ALS 114.

Share your own career path

I teach ALS: 114 on Ecampus. After my spring 2023 session, I received feedback on student evaluations that it didn’t seem like there was “enough of me as a person” in the course. As a result, I recorded personalized videos with my results from some of our career activities. Focus 2 is an interests and values assessment that gives students ideas for majors and career paths (free to use for OSU students through the Career Development Center). I have students download their results and submit them for a grade. This year, I completed the assessment myself, showed students my results in a video, and talked through the majors and career paths Focus 2 suggested, including what aligned with my personal and professional goals and what did not.  I also did this with a community map assignment, showing students who has had an influence on my life. It can feel vulnerable to share with students, and as instructors we should never share anything we aren’t comfortable with. But doing the assignments we ask them to do, and talking through our own results, can build students’ connection to me and to the course, while clearing up any questions they may have about the assignment itself. That said, these assignments are relatively short and did not take me much time to complete. That wouldn’t be true of every assignment in every course, so this may not be a realistic solution for everyone.

Yes, you do need an AI policy

In spring of 2023, I taught ALS 114 for the first time and naively believed I could avoid an AI policy because the writing assignments my students completed were mostly personal or career reflections. To me, these reflections seemed short and like it would be more work to get AI to answer them. I was reminded that we don’t know the full picture of students’ lives. If they are in a difficult period, or incredibly stressed about their future, AI can be a tempting tool that provides answers without the student having to engage in the mental process of reflection. In fall of 2023, I introduced an AI policy that largely reduced the AI usage I saw in the course. Students were allowed to use AI to help them organize their thoughts but not to draft assignments wholesale. Being transparent and communicating about AI use allows students to stay within assignment guidelines and understand instructor expectations from the start of the term

Define your preferences, especially whether you prefer a “professional tone” or an “authentic voice”

Some students were tempted to still use AI to produce a more “professional tone.” In talking with students about this, they felt a professional tone reflected higher level diction than they would consider using on their own. To them, this diction made the assignment more formal. This resulted in an excellent opportunity to discuss my bigger priority than word choice: authentic voice. I was able to speak to our reflections as informal writing with my emphasis on getting to know each student’s authentic voice. We also discussed professionalism as a skill that can be built over time and does not need to be done all at once in a single assignment by changing specific words. In other courses I teach, I’ve started giving disclaimers about how authentic voice is my priority. My hope is that by discussing authentic voice in informal reflections on the front end, students won’t feel the need to use AI to enhance their word choice.

Each time I teach this class I learn new things about my teaching practice, what I’d like to emphasize for students, and what students need to feel connected. I know I’ll continue to make changes that center students and hopefully encourage them to reflect on their lives and careers in their own authentic voices.

Fall Student Survey Results – A Sneak Preview

by Clare Creighton

Each fall, our Fall Student Survey team works with campus partners to develop a survey administered to all undergraduate Corvallis-based students. This effort began in April 2020 when we wanted to understand how the remote learning and pandemic conditions were impacting students. Over time, the survey has evolved to help us get a general pulse of the student experience and timely information on a few key topical areas relevant to OSU initiatives and efforts.

For Fall 2023, the survey was opened on October 23, ran for approximately two weeks, and closed on November 9, 2023.

This year we asked questions in a few key blocks:

  • General overview questions that ask students about how they’re doing, their level of concern with different elements of the student experience, and their perception of their success this term.
  • A block of questions about their experience with on-campus and off-campus work/employment (hours, goals, desires)
  • A block of questions about the email communication students receive from OSU was devised in consultation with the Beaver Hub implementation team to gauge the impact of Beaver Hub on how students experience communication from OSU.
  • A block of questions about perceptions of generative artificial intelligence (AI) and its role in students’ academic experiences.
  • Results from the full survey will be presented at an upcoming FYI Friday presentation on March 8, 2024 (via Zoom). Registration for that event is online (OSU Login). Following the presentation, the report will be released in a Box folder to internal OSU audiences.

    The Final Question

    In anticipation of that, however, I wanted to share a bit about my experience coding the final question “What else should we ask about”? Because this is an open-ended question, students can use this space in a number of ways. Here are a few trends, along with some insights those trends offer for future survey construction.

    First, many of the respondents provided example topics on which they’d like us to ask questions. This was valuable data that showed us some of the issues important to students. Additionally, some of the topics were particularly grounded in the timing of the survey (e.g. referencing October safety announcements).  These results provided a useful reminder to ground interpretation within the context of when the survey was run and cues us to keep timing and current context in mind when drafting surveys and evaluating the results.

    Second, a number of respondents used the open-ended question to provide answers for the questions they wish we had asked. While it’s challenging to code responses for essentially a “wild-card” question, we gathered insights from a range of topics we might not have thought to ask on a survey of this scale. Quite a few students wanted to give input on programs, services, or other ways they experienced OSU. I appreciate noting for myself that students are interested in opportunities to provide feedback on programs and services and recognized that they may not always be clear on where they have opportunities to do so outside of this survey – an area we can improve on locally within each program and more broadly across the OSU experience.

    Third, some students gave feedback on the survey itself or indicated places of confusion with the available responses. There were a few places where questions or answer choices that make sense to us, did not fit the wide array of choices students need/want. In the next round of the survey, we can take into account student perspective more fully by planning time for student review of the format, options, and wording prior to the survey launch.

    I hope you’ll join us for the FYI Friday session to learn more about how student perspectives are shaping our understanding of the student experience. For questions about the Fall Student Survey effort, contact Maureen Cochran, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives and Assessment, Division of Student Affairs.

A Reflection on the Collaborative Effort for the College of Engineering Mental Health Improvement Project

by Bria Kettenhofen and Bonnie Hemrick

Background and Scope of the Mental Health Improvement Project

Oregon State University’s (OSU) Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) was approached by the College of Engineering (COE) to engage in a collaborative effort to assess and create an action plan to improve the mental health of COE students. Starting in Fall 2022, CAPS has participated in a collaborative project with COE to complete a thorough needs assessment, which informed the creation of an action plan to improve on three focus areas of impact. The collaborative effort to create the Mental Health Improvement Plan concluded as of January 2024, with a recommended implementation and assessment to occur over the following three years.

The scope of the project was to collect and analyze existing and newly collected data to understand the experiences and challenges of students in COE and determine an action plan to guide efforts to improve the mental health of COE students. Risk and protective factors which were associated with mental health challenges in OSU’s COE students were determined based off surveys, facilitated focus groups, and ongoing dialogue and engagement with an Advisory Board (AB).

Advisory Board Makeup, Collaboration, and Guidance

A diverse Advisory Board was formed and consisted of COE students, COE administration, COE faculty, COE academic advisors, and other key OSU stakeholders. The AB was involved at the outset of the COE Mental Health Improvement Project, meeting weekly during the 2022-2023 academic year (AY) and Fall 2023 to collaboratively create needs assessment data collection tools, interpret themes from analysis, and provide perspective on the culture and policies of COE. Five COE students from various majors, lived experiences, and extracurricular involvement served as active members of the AB alongside OSU Faculty and staff, to center the student voice and perspective, and keep the student experience central to the project activities and decision making.

Maintaining student participation in the AB was one of the primary goals of the Mental Health Improvement Project. The AB was frequently consulted with relating to the needs assessment content and logistics, and the goal was for efforts to reflect the genuine student perspective and experience in COE.

What We Learned and What We Can Take Forward

The process of including an Advisory Board made up of subject matter experts, COE Faculty and staff, and students with lived experiences proved to be invaluable to the COE Mental Health Improvement Project. This suggests that this process could be duplicated in other colleges and communities which could benefit from informed and intentional intervention and advisement. Upon the culmination of the COE Mental Health Improvement Project, it became evident that the completion and fidelity of this community assessment was only made possible through active stakeholder engagement and involvement at all levels of the institution, from students to college leaders. Foundational to this endeavor was the buy-in from administrators in COE, as the leadership at COE was catalyst for this multi-year needs assessment effort.

Throughout the data collection, analysis, and interpretation phases of the project, COE administrators were provided updates and reports detailing the extensive efforts of the AB. After careful review and evaluation, the AB identified three priority areas for impact:

    • Academic Practices
      • Practices in the classroom, on Canvas, during advising, or relating to an academic obligation of a course. Such practices include group work requirements, universal flexibilities around deadlines, discussion requirements, exams, and assignments.
    • COE Culture & Classroom Climate Practices
      • The current attitudes, behaviors, and standards of faculty, staff, and administrators that influence the culture in COE. The shared beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes of students and teaching faculty in the classroom setting which determine the ways in which students interact and learn.
    • Personal Well-being
      • How to address individual level well-being; how to teach students about mental health and supportive practices for their personal well-being.

    COE administrators continuously demonstrated an openness to shift practices, policies, and embed health education throughout the curriculum and culture in COE, which made the project possible. With an engaging and open partnership between CAPS and COE, the COE Mental Health Improvement Project demonstrates that similar efforts can be undertaken at other colleges and institutions with the support and intentional buy-in from administrators.

    If you have any additional questions about the COE Mental Health Improvement Project, please reach out to Bonnie Hemrick (Bonnie.Hemrick@oregonstate.edu).

Prompts for Meeting 1:1 with Student Employees

by Clare Creighton

One-on-one meetings (or 1:1s) is the shortcut term our department uses for meeting individually with someone, most often with a direct report or supervisor. Student employees meet with their supervisor in 1:1s at various frequencies throughout the year, and professional staff meet with their reporting line supervisor in 1:1s on a regular basis as well. I love thinking about how the questions we ask open up possibilities for different conversations. I asked the team what kind of prompts they use in their 1:1s with student employees and there were a lot of thematic similarities.

In these conversations, the question below is just a starting point, from there we can ask follow-up questions and unpack responses in detail. Some supervisors give their questions to the team member in advance, and not all questions make it into every conversation. Here’s a collection:

  1. How has this past [week, month, term] been?
  2. Tell me about a highlight from this past [week, month, term]. Or What do you feel like you’re doing particularly well?
  3. What challenges have you experienced/faced? Or What’s been challenging about your work?
  4. What is on your radar as you look ahead? What’s coming up?
  5. What skills do you want to further develop this term? What types of projects do you want to take on? What areas of development do you have in mind?
  6. In general, or specific to the projects and skills above, what kind of support would you like from me? What would be helpful this [week, month, term]?
  7. Here’s an upcoming project, change, or workflow ____. What role do you want to play in that project? What do you think your strengths or contributions might be?

These prompts strike me as useful in a range of conversations – in your own 1:1s or similar conversations. I’ll add one of my favorite prompts to the list as well, which is to ask folks, “what would you like me to ask you about/check in on when we meet next?”

Revising a Survey Question

by Clare Creighton

For the fourth fall in a row, Maureen Cochran, Erin Bird, and I collaborated with campus partners on the questions that make up the Fall Student Experience survey, which goes out to all Corvallis-based undergraduate students to understand their experience and perspective in a few key areas of interest. The survey ran from October 23 – November 6 and I anticipate sharing some findings in a Winter issue of The Success Kitchen. In this post, however, I’m interested in a conversation I had with Nicole Hindes, director of the Basic Needs Center (BNC) as we worked on the wording of some questions in October.

We have a stock question we have asked on all the surveys that asks students to what degree are the listed items are a “Significant Concern,” “Somewhat of a Concern” “Not a Concern” or “Not applicable.” One of the listed items is “Meeting my current financial obligations” and this year, we wanted to understand more about the “Significant Concern” or “Somewhat of a Concern” responses to that question. 

In brainstorming what to ask as a follow-up question, we were considering asking about the financial concerns students were having. Was it concerns with things like paying rent or tuition or groceries? Not being about to save for unexpected expenses or keep up with existing debts? What kinds of things were they having trouble paying for?

That question felt off, but in reaching out to Nicole, she helped us understand why. At best that’s a misleading way to understand degrees of poverty and need, at worst, it’s laden with the assumption that we can make meaning of what they can and can’t afford and what that means for them. Here’s where we landed with the wording instead (it’s not a perfect fit either, but it’s better!)

You indicated a level of concern with meeting your current financial obligations.  Please indicate which of the following are relevant for you:

  • I have utilized resources previously and they helped me improve my financial strategies
  • I am currently using resources where I can go to ask for help to address some of my financial stressors (CAFE, BNC, Career Development Center, Financial Aid, Scholarship Office)
  • I intend to utilize resources to address my financial concerns in the next month.
  • I do not know what to do to address my financial concerns
  • I do not believe I can improve my financial stressors.
  • I am confident I will utilize resources to address my financial concerns if the situation becomes more challenging or serious than my current reality.
  • Other (please specify): ___________________

Nicole offers this as an explanation for the rewrite:

What I like about this reframe we did, was that it brings out more of the student’s agency and capacity into what we’re all understanding about the student’s current situation (including how we’re asking the student to understand their resources). A drill-down into the concerns really only gives us more information about a problem and functionally little information about a student’s experience with help-seeking behaviors. It’s regretfully far too common for students who are low-income to be seen by what they don’t have or what they lack, a deficit-orientation. Not ignoring the impact of systemic limitations/conditions, I generally operate from the mindset that if students use their resources, they can improve their situation/conditions and that it’s possible to thrive and graduate inside of varying levels of income/financial need.

The rework of this question does a few things. We’ll learn much more useful information from this question like how they are engaging in support resources and to what degree they see an ability to change. Those answers will help us understand where students are confident they can get help to improve their conditions and where they need invitation (from us as administrators) to engage in resources. The places we put our attention or focus create the understanding we have about who someone is or what their lives are like. The reframing of this question also brings in more of a student’s capacity to affect their situation, their ability to ask for help to address their stressors, which is a more empowering framework than drilling down into their concerns.

This conversation was a helpful one as we worked on the wording of the survey, but more broadly, I carry a few lessons forward. This question offered a great example of an instance when the wording of a question and how it’s framed have a ripple effect, on the student as they’re taking the survey and how they see themselves in relationship to their finances, on the folks who read the results and the meaning they’re making from responses. Most importantly for me, I appreciate that I’m already in relationship with Nicole as it was easy to “pick up the phone” and connect both to improve the question itself, but also to learn more about what I didn’t recognize in the original version.

Exploring Student Communication through Fall Survey Engagement

by Clare Creighton

In April 2020, a small team of folks from Student Affairs and Academic Affairs designed and administered a survey to undergraduate, Corvallis-campus based students to better understand the student experience during the transition to remote learning. Since then, this team has conducted four additional surveys to gain insights into students’ experiences and perspectives.

In late October 2022, we initiated the fifth survey in this series and received responses from 2600 students. We will be releasing the full findings within the next few weeks, but I wanted to pull out a few key points that piqued my curiosity on the broader question: “What should communication look like between students and OSU?” Fortunately for all involved, I’m not the one answering this question. In fact, the Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) team is engaging in that work right now, and that group will review the responses on a few questions they helped design. For the scope of this blog, I want to highlight some areas of curiosity that came up relative to that theme of communicating with students:

  1. I coded the question “What support do you think you most need so you can be successful this year at OSU?” – the top two themes were financial support and academic resources, but many students used that space to give feedback on a specific course or instructor. The survey isn’t designed for local feedback of that sort, so I interpret this to mean we have a gap in our communication structure. How do we empower students to talk to their instructors? And, when needed (although rare), what mechanisms are in place for students when genuine issues with an instructor arise? I am intrigued by the feedback form the College of Science has in place and wonder what the role this form or others like it might play in supporting interaction between students and instructors.
  2. Near the end of the survey we asked “What do you wish we would have asked about in this survey?” Erin Bird coded these responses, and I saw in those themes an opportunity to do more to hear from students. They asked that OSU ask more about their experience as a student, ask questions about their mental health, and check in on them more. We don’t need to survey students more to create spaces for them to feel heard and to convey that they matter to the university. What opportunities already exist for students to share about their experience, or for an instructor, advisor, or support personnel to indicate interest in how they’re doing? What would that look like?
  3. At the end of the survey, we asked students to leave their name and email address if they’d like to receive follow-up information and resources. Getting email outreach after finishing a survey isn’t an ideal way to connect, and yet 33% of our respondents were interested in additional communication at the end of the survey. There is a clear interest for students in timely information about resources. I am curious where the appropriate home might be for an “I want outreach/help/information” request within our university ecosystem.
  4. The overall survey response rate was low (under 20%)—lower, in fact, than the other surveys in the series. On the other hand, the students who completed the survey gave rich and robust responses. When asked to define success, over 2100 respondents offered up 35,000 words. With both of those data points in mind, I am curious: how can we create routine mechanisms for students to share feedback that will be reviewed and shared more broadly?

I may have just offered four reasons not to administer a large-scale survey, but I actually believe wholly in this effort (and want to increase the response rate).  But a survey alone can’t accomplish our communication needs, and I believe that students and administrators, faculty, and staff would benefit from more nuanced conversation. For students, the value is in learning about resources in a timely fashion, an ability to give input and share their experience, and, at times, be checked-in on. From OSU’s perspective, having student input and perspective is vital in key success initiatives, effective communication, and our overall understanding of what needs and concerns exist.

We can and are working on large-scale communication through the CRM project and survey efforts like this, but I don’t want to lose sight of the ways we can do the work of communication at the small scale too. Individual people – student support personnel, advisors, instructors can play an important role here through day-to-day conversations with students. This week I’m going to pay attention to the conversations I’m having, and identify places where checking-in, inviting perspective, and offering resources can show up within existing dialogues.

For those interested in the full results of the survey, Erin Bird, Maureen Cochran, and I will be presenting as part of the FYI Friday series on Friday, February 3rd, at 1:00 pm via Zoom. Registration is required. If you are unable to attend, a recording will be available in Box along with the final report.

New Book on Studying Lands in January

by Clare Creighton

I had the opportunity last week to connect with Dr. Regan Book cover for Study Like a Champ by Regan A.R. Gurung and John Dunlosky. Cover includes a picture of a brain lifting weightsGurung, Psychology Professor and Executive Director of the Center for Teaching & Learning here at OSU about his upcoming book Study Like a Champ: The Psychology-Based Guide to “Grade A” Study Habits. Coming in January from the American Psychological Association’s LifeTools Series, Study Like a Champ aims to equip students with tools and information to improve their approach to college-level learning. Regan collaborated with a former colleague from the University of Washington, Dr. John Dunlosky, combining their strengths from lab-based cognition research, college classroom research, and decades of university teaching experience.

For Regan, that’s what feels particularly special about this book. In the field of cognitive science there is a lot of information available about effective studying and learning, but not much of it makes it into a format that is accessible for students who in their busyness wouldn’t have time to weed through dense scientific journal articles (my words, not Regan’s) or books written primarily for educators. With years of teaching experience, Regan is excited to bring specific strategies to students based on what he’s learned working with college students in the classroom. This practical classroom setting has prepared him to frame strategies in a way that students can use.

Two of the concepts discussed in “Study Like a Champ” are spaced practice and retrieval practice. Spaced practice refers to the act of spreading out learning/studying sessions over time to allow memory consolidation to take place, which is more effective than cramming. Retrieval practice is the technique of trying to recall information without reminders or visual cues. Instead of looking at something and feeling like you know it, you actually test yourself to see if you can recall that information without looking at it. Learning about spaced practice or retrieval practice is useful, but Regan says he wanted to make sure students knew how to do those things as well. Regan shared with me that he used to mention retrieval practice in his psychology classes, but now he goes a step further to ensure that students understand what he means and how to do that, and get to experience it through the course design. For example, students in his intro psych class get to practice information recall every class period.

According to Regan, the goal of this book is to “provide students with the latest cognitive science on how to learn effectively and efficiently, in a way that translates jargony science into practical information they can use immediately after reading.”

I like the idea of giving students more information about what effective studying looks like, backed-up by research and information from the field of psychology. That’s one of our primary goals in the Academic Success Center and we work on this through different programs (the Learning Corner, ALS 116, Academic Coaching, Supplemental Instruction). What excites me about this book is the conversations it invites.

Like Regan, I see possibilities for conversations about studying happening across campus. If students, faculty, and staff are better equipped with the language of effective study strategies, we can have more conversations about studying and integrate it into our work. Planning, note-taking, and learning happen beyond the classroom as well which makes information about how we learn relevant to everyone. Myths about learning styles and other learning practices are pervasive and the antidote in my mind is in this book and other sources that provide practical information on what works and what doesn’t.

When “Study Like a Champ” is released in January, I’ll be reading it and thinking of how to get this information in the hands of students. Maybe it’s new content for the Learning Corner, maybe it’s a student staff meeting on the topic of studying, or reviewing the orientation content from our OSU Welcome event. I’ve requested the OSU Libraries purchase this text once it releases and I offer an invitation here to each of you for further conversation about how to integrate these concepts into our work with students.

Onboarding Student Employees

by Clare Creighton

September is a common time for onboarding student employees, and across the Academic Success Center and Writing Center, we brought on 37 new student employees this fall. In the next few months, we’ll be reflecting on the training we delivered, assessing the experience for student staff, and identifying any changes for the next round. We asked some of our new employees what they appreciated in their onboarding experience, and this is what they shared with us:

  1. It was emphasized to us that the best way to learn is by doing. I was relieved to know I don’t have to be any sort of expert before starting my job!
  2. I have really enjoyed that you guys have created a safe space for us to learn how to do something new without judgement. I feel like I can learn better and quicker in an environment that doesn’t punish me for making a mistake, especially when I’m learning something new.
  3. The time we spent to get to know the other student staff members—community and support for each other was and continues to be part of the ASC’s core values!
  4. I loved the emphasis on validation and praise, and how our jobs not only revolve around the writing process, but also around instilling confidence in the writer and their abilities.
  5. I appreciated that I was able to interact and train with returning [peer leaders] since it allowed me to start getting to know everyone and not feel isolated on my first day of leading tables.
  6. I liked that our training incorporated both individual work from canvas and group sessions over zoom and in person. This gave me the chance to get comfortable with the material on my own, and then help build a community with my coworkers.
  7. The room to make mistakes I had while onboarding for coaching contributes to the majority of the skills I use in coaching today!
  8. I have really appreciated the support and encouragement along the way. Putting in the effort to at least know all our names and check in every now and then when we’re in between tables is a great way to make us feel like an actual person, not just an employee!
  9. The training for my position was done in a way that allowed me to connect with, practice, and discuss with other students as we all learned from each other and together.
  10. I appreciated how training established early on that everyone is a writer, and that the most important thing a consultant can do is encourage. I found the focus on empowerment to be a very refreshing and reassuring framework.

Do you onboard student staff in your role? We enjoy conversation about training and supporting student employees and would love to exchange ideas with you. We’re also eager to make folks aware of the open source online training modules “Introduction to Student-Centered Peer Education” that we use in training. Email Clare Creighton clare.creighton@oregonstate.edu) to start a conversation.

What Parenting Brings to the Table

by Clare Creighton

I’ve been a parent for six years now (longer if I count pet-parenting), almost as long as I’ve been in my current role at OSU. In some instances, the two roles feel at odds with each other as I experience a tension between working and being available to my kids. Certainly the 18 months of working from home blurred those lines considerably for me. But recently I’ve been trying to draw my roles as a parent and as a professional together in conversation. My orientation to listening and helping has changed as I consider how I relate to my very independent three-year old. She helps me see that I am quick to jump in and “help,” and most of the time that’s not what she wanted or asked for. It’s made me pause and clarify, “Do you want help?” and “What do you want that help to look like?” – a move that I am trying to flex more in other spaces as I check in with others about if and how they want me to engage.

I’ve asked a few colleagues to join me in thinking about how lessons learned from parenting impact who we are and how we approach our work.

Raina Martinez (Educational Opportunities Program)

“I have been a parent for 15 years now and one thing I have learned about being a parent that I can translate to my work counseling students is adapted from Maria Montessori, an educator from the turn of the 19th Century. Each experience is a time to learn. Not all experiences are going to be awesome or causes for celebration, quite the opposite, but we take away from these experiences learning, understanding and, hopefully, sometimes, grace, forgiveness and empathy. I can’t and shouldn’t stand in the way of experiences, lessons or progress; nor should I insert myself in any of these. Rather, I need to stand aside, guide and point out blocks along the way; but I must let them drive.”

Gabs James (College of Science)

“My kids inspired my master’s degree research, which is about celebrating gender expansiveness. Through supporting their gender journeys and discovering my own, I have brought these insights with me to the work I do with undergrads. We are all on a journey. Sometimes those journeys intersect, sometimes they need support, or encouragement to a roadside attraction. What’s been rad about parenting while being a graduate student and full-time student services professional has been the realization that we are co-creators of these journeys, not the architects of them. So, in a sense being a parent informs my work, and being a practitioner informs my parenting.”

Anne-Marie Deitering (OSU Libraries & Press)

“We became parents by adoption – one day everything was hypothetical and the next day we were parenting an almost-teenager.  Now, the stereotypical narrative around parenting new teenagers is that parents go from the person with all of the answers to the person who just doesn’t get it. Of course, stereotypes can’t capture the whole of any experience (even when they contain some truth) and for our family, this one really didn’t. Adopting an older child means parenting someone who might not trust you enough to be honest with you. It can take a while before they will express themselves when they are worried or afraid, and it can take even longer for them to feel safe enough to full-on disagree with you. That lesson — that trust needs to be earned and that negative feedback based on trust is a gift – helps me every day in my work as a teacher, as a mentor and as a manager.”

Teresita Alvarez-Cortez (Office of Institutional Diversity)

“My daughter has helped me understand so much of the operating knowledge I take for granted. She often asks what things mean or why something happens the way it does. Most things I assume as common knowledge, like the fact you have to actually pay for the cool toy you want and not just walk out of a store 😊 But some knowledge is more subtle, like the fact that we need to take turns talking in a conversation. These are norms and expectations that are not always clearly “taught.” I think about this a lot when I am working with teams, especially as I help onboard new employees to a team. I ask myself: “What are the norms or expectations of our work environment that are unspoken or unclear?” Then, I try my best to be clear with my colleagues about how those cultural norms operate so they are able to successfully navigate our work environment.”

Conclusion

As a final note, I want to celebrate that knowledge can move in both directions. These roles in our lives are mutually complementary – growth in one area supports growth in another. It invites the question: what assets do parents bring to the work place? What assets do student parents bring to campus?

The First Five Minutes

by Clare Creighton

It’s been about two years since the first time I was in a large group meeting and someone led a grounding activity. We turned off our Zoom cameras and one of the facilitators led us in a breathing exercise. I didn’t get the point.

I’ve had a complicated relationship with the opening minutes of meetings. For a while, the culture of the organization I was in was openly anti-ice-breaker. Those corny activities felt silly and lacked value when compared to the overflowing agenda of “business” items. And yet, I know there is value in a purposeful approach to how we start meetings. In the last year and a half, I’ve finally done the work of better understanding how different moves impact the meeting space. In contrast to strategies suggested by many of the business articles on the internet, the techniques I share below don’t offer you greater efficiency or a chance to get through your ambitious agenda faster. But for me they offer some valuable trade-offs. I don’t claim to be an expert here, so I’ve drawn on the perspectives of colleagues to help share about a few different ways to begin meetings.

Grounding Activities

A grounding activity is one that helps participants in the meeting to situate themselves in the space and to become more mentally and physically present. We move between meetings and activities at a rapid pace, so grounding can help us make that transition mentally. Nicole Hindes, Director of the Human Services Resources Center, helps us understand why grounding activities can be effective: “starting a meeting with a grounding is helpful for me because it reminds me that I’m a body, that we all have bodies. Much as I’d love to quick-transition between meetings and conversations with others, the reality is that I’m affected by each person I talk with. Sometimes I walk into a meeting or conversation and [may] still be carrying a heaviness or tension (or other energy) that hasn’t dissipated from my body from the conversation space immediately before. Taking the time to ground (and offering the same time and space to others) can help everyone find the attention and inner-resourcing that feels right for the people in front of us. Working in academia, where the cartesian-split prizes my mind over my body, means that I’m regularly fighting pressure to ignore my feelings and my body. A grounding reconnects me to the wisdom available to me in my body and slows me down enough to get curious about the wisdom in other’s bodies too.”

Check-ins

For a check-in, each person in the meeting shares what is “up” for them. For large meetings, this might happen in pairs or small groups. These check-ins don’t require a prompt, just an invitation to share what you are comfortable sharing about how you’re doing in or out of work. Colleague Emily Bowling, Director of Community Engagement & Leadership, offers these example prompts: “What do you want to share with others that you’re bringing in today? How are you arriving into the space today? What’s on your mind/heart as you enter our meeting today?” She describes the value of these check-ins: “I find starting staff meetings with an opportunity for each staff member to check-in is a valuable way to ensure we are relationally connecting and creating space to understand what is on the heart and minds of our colleagues – to know what they are carrying with them in that moment.” For me, the value of these check-ins clicked the other day as someone offered up the connection between how they were doing and how they might show up in the meeting. It makes sense that we carry into a meeting what is on our minds and in our hearts and bodies. Naming that for others might help them understand the way you show up in a meeting.

Ice-Breakers

Ice-breakers are prompts or activities that warm-up the conversation and bring up the energy level in a room. Examples include prompts that ask folks to share or weigh in on a topic (e.g., “what’s the best flavor of Girl Scout Cookie?” or “share one of your office pet peeves”). There are a lot of tools to do this, but offering a simple prompt for folks to respond to can be a way to get to know colleagues in a light-hearted way. More time-intensive activities like the sentence picture game or the 30 circles activity can spark creativity and energy for the rest of that meeting. Challenge Course Coordinator & Instructor Mark Belson describes it as “connection before content:” “connect[ing] and shar[ing] random bits of innocuous information with each other helps participants to feel a sense of collaboration while also getting to know more about each other and our group. These often times simple and brief moments allow us to have our voice heard and also to hear the voices of others. And if we can also share in laugh or a feeling of connectedness, then all the better.”

Open-Ended

Anna Bentley, Administrative Program Assistant for the ASC&WC, calls this the “aimless opener:” deliberate and intentional space left for a conversation that meanders where the group wants to go, leaving open-ended space for relationship building, conversation, and sharing. Anna says, “Have you ever gone to a meeting early and started chatting with other folks in the room while waiting for everyone to arrive? It’s easy to get into a deep discussion that takes up the first few minutes of a meeting. The facilitator can create space for organic conversation to unfold so colleagues can build relationships. There’s no end goal, pre-determined conversation topic, or requirement to participate. Aimless openers aren’t structured and often aren’t planned, but that doesn’t mean it is time wasted. They can still be incredibly valuable moments for teams to build connections.” For me, this is an intriguing possibility – leaving time in the meeting turns over the conversational space to the group to use in a way that meets their needs. It’s worth noting as well that for those more accustomed to a traditional meeting agenda, they might wonder why the “meeting” hasn’t started. This technique and the other strategies can benefit from transparency – it can be helpful for meeting participants to know how the opening minutes of a meeting are going to be structured and what they might get out of that time together.

I hope these insights into ways to start meetings prompt your thinking around the types of spaces you can create in meetings you facilitate. You can explore additional activity ideas with the resources below. Also, please feel free reply if you have other meeting strategies or ideas you think facilitators would benefit from.

Resources

Why Check-ins Should Be Part of Your Team Meeting Culture

Back-to-School Icebreakers Are Awkward, But They Work — Science of Us

Free Resources and Handouts – Training Wheels

Playmeo – Search 490+ Fun Interactive Group Games

Examples of Grounding Activities